This hasn’t been a good month for fans of Madisonian democracy.
One thing that most parliamentary systems are exceptionally good at avoiding is the kind of deadlock over policy that stilled our democratic government’s heart and has left us two weeks deep in a shutdown.
As a result, those who are skeptical of our separate institutions sharing powers are out in full force.
This Tuesday, in a low-turnout election, voters in two Colorado districts will decide whether they want to recall their state senators. Based on the outcome of those two elections, media around the country will determine whether gun control legislation is a safe political bet for elected officials who want to keep their seats; pro- and anti-gun control groups will see if flexing their muscles with large donations has all been for naught.
When Oregon voted on the nation’s first ballot initiative in 1904, the idea—as high-school civics teachers have told students ever since—was to take power away from the industries that ran the state legislature through bribes and corruption and return it to the people. In those days, corporate interests dominated and corrupted state politics all across the United States. Mining and railroad companies loomed particularly large, buying off entire legislative chambers and putting lawmakers on their payroll.
After what seems like forever, it’s finally Wisconsin Recall Eve. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, one thing’s certain: If you’ve had any doubts about the growing nationalization of elections, wash them away now. All politics may be local, but people in D.C.—whether journalists, politicians, or billionaire dilettantes—have found that they can have an outsized influence on the national stage by investing in state and local races.
We don’t know the outcome of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, of course, but we do know this: Even if labor somehow manages to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, the result will be nothing like the resounding repudiation that Ohio voters delivered last year in repealing that state’s anti-collective bargaining law pushed by an equally controversial GOP governor, John Kasich.
I’m just curious, is there much information out there about what (if anything) precisely impacts voting on referendums or initiatives? And if so, what aspects of a referendum campaign are most effective (like advertising, phone banking, door to door campaigning, etc.). Any information and/or help locating any information would be much appreciated.
I was a little skeptical last week when Wisconsin Democrats released the first batch of signatures for their recall campaign against Governor Scott Walker. They'd gathered over 100,000 signatures in four days, an impressive haul no doubt, but the first batch of supporters were always going to be the easiest to bring around. State election law requires that the signatures exceed 25 percent of the ballots cast in the relevant election, totaling over 540,000 in Walker's case.
Opposition to labor restrictions has galvanized Wisconsin Democrats over the past year, but they face a tough haul with their recall campaign against Republican Governor Scott Walker. A recall will only be triggered if the campaign manages to collect signatures totaling 25 percent of the ballots cast in the 2010 election. That equals more than 540,000 signatures, though they'll need to gather more than that to guard against any challenges. All the forms must be submitted to the state's election board within 60 days of the first day of the campaign last week.
The conventional wisdom on the recall elections in Wisconsin is that they were a failure. Democrats only won two of the six seats up for recall, and failed to capture a majority in the state senate. At The Prospect, Harold Meyerson saw the results as a “sobering” reminder of union weakness in an age of reactionary power.
Jamelle Bouie says that while recall elections seem like a way to give power to the people, they actually do more harm than good.
Will 2011 be the year of the recall election?
In January, conservative activists tried -- and failed -- to recall the mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, Jim Suttle, because he tried to raise taxes and negotiate with local unions. More recently, critics of Gov. Jan Brewer have begun collecting signatures to force a recall election in Arizona. And in Wisconsin, unions have begun a massive effort to recall three Republican state senators for their support of Gov. Scott Walker and his plan to end collective bargaining for public-sector employees.